A volunteer sprays whipped topping onto a slice of apple pie during AppleFest on Sept. 28, 2019, in Monmouth. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

MONMOUTH — The town’s annual Applefest is the latest on a long list of early fall events that have been canceled.

A post on the Monmouth Museum’s Facebook page announced the cancellation late Sunday. Organizer Audrey Walker said Monday that the event’s cancellation is the latest blow to the museum caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Walker said there was no way the event could be run to keep the visitor count below 100, the limit for outdoor gatherings according to restrictions from Gov. Janet Mills’s office.

“We started planning in July with hopes things would improve,” she said.

The popularity of the event was its undoing.

“We feel sheltered here in Monmouth, but we still felt that it was not safe for our community,” Walker said. “People don’t come like a visit to Hannaford and pop in and out. They stay for a couple of hours.”

The festival started in 1989, celebrates the region as a premier apple-growing location in Maine. The event was one of a number of programs planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Monmouth Museum, some of which were hampered by the pandemic.

“We had a hit because we couldn’t open during the summer,” Walker said. “We had big plans for celebrations, … and those couldn’t happen either.”

She said the event usually brings in “a couple thousand” dollars for the museum. Despite the lost funding, Walker said the museum will “be fine.”

“We’ve got some good donors, and we’ve got support from the local community,” Walker said.

Some events will still take place Sept. 26, albeit in an altered fashion. The customary apple pie sale will be a drive-thru format at the museum to minimize direct contact. Walker said bakers will seal the pies before delivering them to the museum to be distributed, so they won’t be handled much.

The 12th annual AppleFest 5K, organized by the Friends of Cumston Hall, will take place virtually this year. Runners will run 5 kilometers wherever they find themselves and submit their times.

Dennis Price, president of the Friends of Cumston Hall board of directors, said the group decided to go virtual with the 5K to discourage a large gathering in town, but still keep the event in the minds of participants.

“We figured that the virtual race was a good in-between because we didn’t want to cancel totally,” he said. “The underlying reasoning is we didn’t want to have an event that drew people together.”

Jessica McNaughton, left, points at a radio-controlled robot carrying an apple during AppleFest on Sept. 28, 2019, in Monmouth. The robot was part of the Monmouth Middle School and Monmouth Academy Vex Robotics Club demonstration. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

Town Select Board chairperson Doug Ludewig said the decision to cancel the event was “wise.” He said a number of crafters, which are a large draw for the event, were not planning to attend this year’s event.

“I know that without the crafters, attendance would be way down,” Ludewig said. “It would probably be way down anyway (due to the pandemic).”

He said the event is a small boon for Main Street businesses and local organizations. Local organizations, like the Boy Scout troop, Ludewig said, undertake small fundraisers spinning off of the event.

“There’s a little bit of money that comes in,” he said. “It’s a community event where a lot of people like to come out.”

Martin Gawron, owner of the Monmouth General Store, said Monday the store won’t be affected much by the cancellation.

A large number of fairs were canceled this year due to the coronavirus. Smaller local events, like Old Hallowell Day, were also canceled. Some events, including the Common Ground Fair, plan to move online for their programs.

Walker said the museum’s Facebook page will feature 50 artifacts in 50 days to celebrate the anniversary.

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